Avoiding and Resolving Workplace Conflict & Disputes

Posted in : HR Updates on 14 September 2021
Ruth Curran
Think People Consulting
Issues covered: Workplace disputes; Mediation; HR Policies

All employers have to deal with conflict and disputes within the workplace at some point and every employer has the same end goal – to resolve the conflict and dispute as quickly as possible with the least amount of risk to the business.

In May 2021 ACAS published a report estimating the costs of workplace conflict, which highlighted that the total annual cost of conflict to employers, which included management and resolution, is £28.5 billion! This equates to an average of £1,028 for every employee in the UK each year. The report also highlighted that nearly half a million employees resign each year across the UK as a result of conflict. Handling disagreement and complaints early before professional relationships are damaged can help save businesses money.   

With this in mind, here are some tips for handling workplace disputes:

  • Ensure all staff are familiar with and understand the HR policies and procedures in place
  • Be consistent and adhere to your policies and procedures
  • Address issues as soon as they arise
  • Record your thought process / rationale when coming to a decision
  • Equip your managers to handle conflict and disputes within the workplace

HR Policies

The policies that any employer will rely heavily on when addressing conflict and disputes are the disciplinary and grievance policies and procedures. Do review these and ensure they are up to date with best practice. This could include adapting your policies to reflect the current working environment if all or some staff are working remotely due to the pandemic or you are planning a permanent move to hybrid working.


Unless things are serious, or an employee wishes to raise a formal complaint, in the first instance employers should try to resolve the matter informally. If there is conflict or a dispute between two or more parties, explore whether those involved would be willing to take part in a mediation process. A mediator will encourage those in dispute to talk about the issue and facilitate them to agree a mutually beneficial resolution between themselves. Mediation is increasingly being used by companies to empower employees to address issues in a controlled environment. By actively participating and working with the other party to come up with a resolution it is more likely that the professional working relationship can be preserved. This can be a more effective and positive way to resolve conflict than going through the grievance procedure. It should be stressed that mediation is a voluntary process and the parties involved need to consent to the process.

Compliant, Robust & Precise

Robust policies and skilled managers will help avoid conflict and disputes in the workplace but some unavoidable issues will arise and may escalate to the Industrial Tribunal. If it gets to this point, you need to be confident in the decisions and processes you have taken to date, and that appropriate records have been kept.

This article is correct at 14/09/2021

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Ruth Curran
Think People Consulting

The main content of this article was provided by Ruth Curran. Contact telephone number is 02890 310450 or email Ruth.Curran@thinkpeople.co.uk

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